Commonwealth War Graves Commission opens archives to the public

Raising awareness of the history available on your doorstep was the aim when an important set of archives was opened to the public on Friday.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Marlow Road provided talks from its archivists and displayed a range of records about various soldiers lost in conflict.

It was part of a new drive in conjunction with Explore Your Archives to encourage visitors to the commission, and help them understand more about what the institution does.

Andrew Fetherston, archivist at the commission, said: “We are really excited because this is the first Explore Your Archives at the commission.”

He added he wanted archives ‘as a source of information’ to ‘be engaging’ and was delighted with the turnout.

The entire event sold out and with about 85 people attending extra standing room had to be given to ensure anyone turning up on the day was not disappointed.

The commission ensures that 1.7 million people who died in the two world wars are not forgotten, caring for cemeteries and memorials at 23,000 locations, in 154 countries.

A range of books showing soldiers as close to home as one buried in Bray Cemetery, as well as troops buried in places such as India or Israel were on display to show the varied work of the commission.

Assistant archivist Michael Greet talked visitors through the records and artefacts.

He hoped the event would raise awareness about the sheer amount of history that was available for people to see.

“I think people don’t even realise what the commission is now,” he said.

“Part of our mission is to get out what we really are.”

Brian Belcher, a retired legal department worker from Hemsdale, who was visiting for the event said: “My wife worked here for a short while.

“We drive past this building probably every day.”

He said he believed people were unaware of what was available inside and events like

this helped raise awareness of the impressive history on Maidonians’ doorsteps.

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